How to Get the Best Holiday Travel Deals

Experts explain when to buy plane tickets and book travel for maximum savings

by
(Photo: iStock)

Travelling during the holidays can be suuuper stressful. Do you book last minute or should you be shopping for deals months in advance? With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Travel Tuesday coming up, we got the low-down from travel-industry experts on the best day to book flights and accommodations for your holiday travel.

American Thanksgiving

If you’re planning to travel for US Thanksgiving (November 28 this year) and you haven’t booked yet, book ASAP. “In the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, prices for flights will spike $10 every day,” says Liana Corwin, Hopper’s consumer travel expert. “The longer you wait, the more you’re going to pay.”

Read this next: The Dos (and Definite Don’ts) of Travelling as a Couple for the First Time

Christmas travel

Data from Expedia data shows it’s worth waiting until two to three weeks before the holidays to book. “We found that the cheapest time to book travel for the holidays was 14 to 20 days in advance of your departure date, which is great news for anyone who’s still procrastinating!” says Christie Hudson, head of communications for Expedia North America. “Travellers who booked during that window saved around 10 percent last year compared to the average.”

Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

So is Black Friday or Cyber Monday the day to finally press “book”? The answer is: it depends on the site.

Expedia, for example, has a sale starting on Monday, November 25, which runs through to Cyber Monday, with significant discounts on flights, hotels, cruises, activities and more.

If you’re shopping with Kayak, book on Cyber Monday. “Cyber Monday is not only one of the most popular days to search for travel deals with search interest up 16%, it also sees some of the biggest price drops,” says Steve Sintra, Kayak’s Regional Director for North America. “Canadians considering travel to Europe can save big by booking on Cyber Monday with cities in Spain and Italy seeing some of the biggest savings.”

On Booking.com, Black Friday deals on accommodations start at 40% off, with book by dates extending to Cyber Monday and stay by dates until March 31, 2020.

Read this next: The Best Destination Spas in Canada for a Relaxing Weekend Retreat

Travel Tuesday

But what about Travel Tuesday? Some industry insiders believe deals are actually better on this day compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Corwin from Hopper agrees. “This year [Hopper’s Travel Deal Tuesday] falls on December 3 and you’ll find more flight deals than either Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” she says. “There are 18 deals every second.”

Hotel deals

Although flights can be pricey during the holidays, don’t let that completely deter you. Hopper’s research shows that hotels tend to be less expensive over the holiday period, on average 10 percent cheaper. Also, if you book during Travel Deal Tuesday on Hopper, you’ll score an additional $30 US cash back from a hotel reservation.

Sintra agrees. Unlike with flights, procrastinators can often score great deals on hotel rooms by waiting until the very last minute for both domestic and international destinations. “It’s worth noting that this isn’t a great strategy for holiday weekends or when your favourite band comes to town (attracting a big crowd along with it),” says Sintra. “However, in general, hotels want ‘heads in beds’ so you’ll often see prices dip the closer you get to your arrival date.”

Read this next: Sorry, Flying Is Really, *Really* Bad For The Environment. Here’s What To Do If You Love Travel

Other ways to cut travel costs

1. Be flexible

This can be tough when planning a family vacation around juggling vacation days or school holidays, but if you can be flexible on travel dates, specific destination and the type of accommodation, you’ll can snag the best deals, advises Angela Cavis, who manages Booking.com’s global communications and public relations for North America.

On Booking.com, for example, a home or apartment stay is often cheaper than a hotel, but you may be surprised at the deals you’ll find on luxury resorts or unconventional accommodations (tree house, anyone?).

2. Travel on the holiday itself

If you’re willing to travel on Christmas or Thanksgiving Day, you’ll get the cheapest fare. “Demand is low, so airlines are incentivizing people to fly that day by dropping prices,” says Corwin.

3. Avoid Saturday

Hudson from Expedia recommends avoiding traveling the Saturday before Christmas, as it is the most expensive (and most busy) day to start your trip.

4. Book on a weekend

Expedia analyzes flight data each year, and they found that the cheapest fares are generally booked on the weekend. “We saw that flights booked during the weekend yielded savings of 20 percent or more,” says Hudson. “Sunday has emerged as the optimal day to book flights the last two years.” So, in between bringing the kids to swim or skating on Sunday, sit down with your laptop to book those seats.

5. Sign up for airline and travel newsletters

Be ready to scour your emails for deals. Air Canada recommends signing up for the airline’s email offers since they hold promotions throughout the year. Other sites, such as Hopper, offer trackers so that you can plug in dates and your destination and get notification of price so you can stay on top of which it’s time to click “Buy now.”

Filed under:

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

FLARE - Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to FLARE Need to Know for smart, sassy, no-filter takes on everything you're interested in—including style, culture & current events, plus special offers—sent straight to your inbox each day. Sign up here.